Skip to Content

Are Sunflowers Perennials?

A golden field of sunflower on a farm, Are Sunflowers Perennials?Sunflowers are an iconic flower. We've all seen the photos of the sunflower fields in France where row upon row upon row of the yellow and black beauties turn their large heads to the sun. But these flowers are not limited to commercial fields. They are also a favorite of home gardeners, and they come in numerous varieties. When searching for them, you might be wondering if sunflowers are perennials. We've done the research to bring you the answer.
 
Sunflowers come in both annual and perennial varieties. Some must be planted every year, and some will come back on their own. Those are the perennial varieties.
 
Let's look at these happy flowers and see which varieties are perennials. We'll also look at germination rates and life expectancy of these beautiful flowers. Just keep reading for more information!

Types Of Perennial Sunflowers

Perennial sunflowers will give you happy sunny yellow flowers year after year. Unlike the larger annuals, perennial sunflowers tend to have smaller blooms and grow in clusters. They often began blooming in late summer and last into the fall, providing habitat for butterflies and bees.

Maximilian Sunflower

Close up of a blooming maximilian sunflower with a goldenrod soldier beetle

The Maximilian Sunflower, or Helianthus Maximiliano, is a large perennial sunflower plant. It can reach all the way up to ten feet in height and spread to a width of four feet. Suitable for zones 4-9, it typically blooms in the late summer. Unlike traditional sunflowers, this bloom has both yellow petals and a yellow center.

Seed packets are available here from Amazon.

Willowleaf Sunflowers

Beautiful blooming willowleaf sunflowers

The Willowleaf Sunflower is another spreading perennial sunflower. This one is characterized by bright yellow blooms with brownish centers. It spreads in the garden by means of underground rhizomes and creates a gorgeous patch of flowers, so be sure and give it plenty of space to fill in.  It can also be grown in zones 4-9.

Happy Days Perennial Dwarf Sunflower

Happy days dwarf sunflower

If you have large containers that are planted with perennials, here's a dwarf sunflower variety for you. Helianthus "Happy Days" is a radiant yellow on yellow sunflower variety that is not as tall as its cousins.

It produces large and brilliant double flowers from late summer into early fall on stalks that don't get much taller than 24 inches. It's perfect for containers or borders or anywhere that you need a reblooming late summer plant that doesn't take up a ton of garden real estate.

Helianthus "Lemon Queen"

Helianthus 'Lemon Queen'

The Lemon Queen is a real showstopper of a plant. It grows quite large, forming a densely packed arching mound of 6-7 feet tall and about 3 feet around. When in bloom, the whole thing looks like a mass of subtle lemon-yellow blooms.

It's much loved by bees, hummingbirds, and butterflies, and better yet, deer don't find it that interesting. This is a good choice for the rear of a perennial garden, as it grows so large and takes up quite a bit of space. It grows best in zones 4-9.

Grow your own Lemon Queen from seed.

Click here to see these seeds on Amazon.

Types Of Annual Sunflowers

When you think of typical sunflowers, you are thinking of the annual variety. All of the massive large-headed varieties are annuals, which means they must be started from seed each year. (You can read more about that in our post here: How Tall Can A Sunflower Grow?) We'll show you a few of the most popular varieties so that you can see the difference between the annual and the perennial sunflower.

Mammoth Sunflowers

Mammoth sunflowers standing tall on the sunflower field

These are the jolly yellow giant of garden sunflowers. With heights as tall as 12 feet, the mammoth sunflower is the showcase variety of the specimen. It grows quickly and makes an awesome hedge, or plant it in a maze or labyrinth pattern to make a cool friendly garden for your kids. (More ideas on that in this post: 23 Sunflower Garden Ideas You’ll Love).

Start your sunflower seeds in spring and you'll have gorgeous flowers by late summer.

Click here to see these seeds on Amazon.

Autumn Beauty Sunflowers

Close up of blooming autumn beauty sunflowers

Though their flower heads don't have the same width as their cousin the mammoth, these Autumn Beauty sunflowers are unique in their color. A lovely variation of yellows and reds and oranges with brown centers make these annuals a standout in the home garden. These are also known as the common sunflower and make excellent cut flowers for a table arrangement.

Moulin Rouge Sunflower

Close up photo of moulin rouge sunflower

The Moulin Rouge annual sunflower is a real showstopper. Its rich coloring is a perfect accent to the mammoth's yellow. It is a smaller sunflower, with plants only reaching about four feet tall and blooms only about 4" across. It's also pollen-less which makes it superb as a cut flower because you won't be robbing the bees.

Buy Moulin Rough Sunflower seeds here on Amazon.

In What Month Do Sunflowers Bloom?

With perennial sunflowers, they will bloom in late summer—typically July or August. Annual sunflowers might bloom slightly earlier, and you can plant your seeds at different times so that you have them lasting over a longer period of blooming time. Sunflower seeds should be started in mid-late spring for germination by late spring. Depending on the variety, they will take about 80-120 days to reach bloom.

In What Month Do Sunflowers Die?

Sunflowers should give you flowers from late summer all the way until the first frost. If you want continuous flowers, consider planting a mix of perennials and annuals and stagger the germination of your seedlings so that you can spread out the bloom time. Depending upon your zone, the first frost can be anywhere from October to November.

When Should I Cut Down My Sunflowers?

If you've grown Mammoth Sunflowers and you want to harvest your seeds, look for the drop of flower petals. That's a good time to cover the heads with some old pantyhose to prevent birds from stealing the sunflower seeds. Once the seeds brush off easily, it's ready to harvest. If you're saving them to plant next year, then store them in an airtight container in a cool, dry place.

If you're cutting flowers for blooms, the best time of day to cut them is early in the morning. Change their water daily to keep them fresh, and place them in a tall vase to support their stems.

As for your sunflower plants, wait until after the first frost, and the growing season is over. As part of your fall garden clean up, trim back your perennials and dig up the annuals. All of these things can be added to your compost heap to create great fertilizer for next year's garden.

Sunflower field in the Midwest in full bloom at sunset

Sunflowers symbolize adoration, loyalty, and longevity. And whether you choose perennial or annual varieties or both, you're sure to adore the result with these flowers in your garden.

Thank you for stopping by, and for a few more posts on this delightful flower, please see these guides:

Dwarf Sunflowers: A Care Guide For Gardeners

Can You Grow Sunflowers Indoors? [Yes! And Here’s How To!]

10 Best Planters For Sunflowers